HEALTH: by Paul RussellNews Weekly
South Australia braces for new euthanasia bill
, September 1, 2012
If the Hon. Dr Bob Such MP and the Hon. Stephanie Key MP are true to their words on the ABC’s 7:30 Report (SA), they will be introducing new euthanasia bills into the South Australian parliament when sitting resumes in September.
These will be the sixth and seventh bills introduced since this parliament began in March 2010. Readers are welcome to challenge my assertion, but I’m confident that nowhere else on the planet has such a feat been achieved.
Such’s bill, according to his own words after the defeat of his last attempt a month ago, will be a “re-jigged” version of his previous effort.
The ABC report suggested the new bill would have stricter safeguards. If Such’s previous bill wasn’t safe enough, he ought to be grateful that it was defeated!
The report suggested that Steph Key is looking to do some legislative work on palliative care, advanced directives and euthanasia. It’s somewhat hard to envisage what this might mean — particularly if Key plans to deal with all three areas in the one bill.
However, her combination of objectives would fly in the face of the clearly articulated opinion of the medical profession in their recent statement: “The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine Inc., (ANZSPM), believes that the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide are outside the discipline of palliative medicine.
“The society endorses the New Zealand Medical Association’s position statement on euthanasia, and similarly the World Medical Association’s, (both of) which state that euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide are unethical.”
The ABC’s 7:30 Report followed the standard format for its usual kind of advocacy journalism: interview someone living with a difficult condition who wants euthanasia, then bring in the saviour MP (MPs in this case) who clearly want(s) to champion the person’s cause.
At least in this report, the editors chose to grant a little time to the patient’s oncologist, who did not agree.
The gentleman who was the focus of the story, Max Bromson, does live with pain and faces a difficult prognosis. He was articulate and is clearly a lover of life, and he deserves every sympathy for his struggle with ill health.
He expects that the cancer in his bones won’t kill him, but rather will leave him debilitated and destined to spend “months and months” in palliative care. This, he says, would deprive him of any sense of dignity.
He claimed, with a wry grin, that he’s “too proud” to sit there for months on end with others ministering to his basic needs. Yet his oncologist rightly observed that it is the role of his profession to maintain a cancer patient’s dignity and quality of life. He added, “I believe we can achieve that.”
The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine spokesman, Dr Ian Smiley, said in the media release mentioned above that “with good palliative care there is no reason for people to suffer”.
The statement was issued in response to a recent New Zealand 60 Minutes television program with which the society took issue. The ANZPM statement said: “(The) program was completely biased in favour of euthanasia.
“It did not describe the work of hospice and palliative care doctors and nurses who on a daily basis strive ceaselessly throughout New Zealand to relieve the suffering of people facing imminent death.
“The national focus should be on achieving and maintaining excellence of palliative care for every person in this country.”
Could we not say the same in Australia and in our current predicament?
It is notoriously difficult to convey through the popular media, in digestible sound bites, that euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation is never safe. Reasonable argument and caution are often left standing at the starting gate while emotional heart-wrenching rhetoric bounds effortlessly to the finishing line.
To date, those in favour of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide have scored a very poor win-to-loss ratio. However, their failure is no excuse for complacency. It is sobering but necessary to remind ourselves that they need only win once.
Paul Russell is director of the national network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide www.noeuthanasia.org.au and vice-chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International.